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Nov 22, 2019 in 5G Network

Q: Why Standards Are Important in the “Race to 5G”

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Nov 22, 2019
During the development of 3G technologies, China adopted its own standard to avoid dependence on western technology. While equipment built to those standards was successful in China, the standards were not accepted globally, and equipment could not be successfully exported.66 Other countries participated in international projects, contributed to international standards, and implemented standards-based networks. By participating in SDOs, a company can shape standards, and ensure that the final standards and requirements for equipment align to its preferred specifications for the product. Companies that are able to gain acceptance of their preferred standards through the standards development process have a head start in bringing products to market and gaining first-mover advantage. This approach is “much more economical than trying to retrofit a product (and its manufacturing process) after a standard is approved.” 67 Many countries support industry efforts to participate in standards development. FCC Commissioner O’Rielly noted, “If standards properly reflect and include our industries’ amazing efforts, they promote U.S. technologies and companies abroad, bringing investment, revenues, and jobs to this country.” 68 For 5G, China played a more cooperative role in standards development, participating in SDOs, leading technical committees, conducting 5G R&D, contributing to 5G specifications, and participating in international projects. 69 Some experts assert that through its participation in SDOs, China is advancing its preferred standards and positioning itself to dominate the global 5G market.70 As an example, analysts note that many network operators are adopting the 5G NonStand Alone standard to leverage their legacy 4G networks as a first step to building out 5G. China is supporting the 5G Stand-Alone standard which would require operators to rebuild core networks and buy new base stations and equipment, and move all countries toward more advanced IoT devices (which China is focused on providing).71 However, in the development of standards for 5G, SDO members supported both Non-Stand-Alone and Stand-Alone specifications, which enabled them to leverage 4G networks, improve 4G services with 5G technologies, and provide better services as companies plan out 5G deployments. Even before specifications were finalized, some companies and countries advanced 5G plans and launched 5G services. For example, China began deploying 5G infrastructure before 5G specifications were approved, and Verizon launched fixed 5G services using proprietary standards. While these efforts provide some advantages in future deployments, in that companies can prepare for and learn from these deployments, there are also risks. For example, last-minute revisions to the specifications may require China to upgrade those pre-standard 5G sites.
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